Ben Goldacre

"Bad Science":

In general, you don’t absorb things very well through your skin, because its purpose is to be relatively impermeable. When you sit in a bath of baked beans for charity, you do not get fat, nor do you start farting.

As Voltaire said, “The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”

Very little of the curcumin you eat is absorbed. You have to eat a few grams of it to reach significant detectable serum levels, but to get a few grams of curcumin, you’d have to eat one hundred grams of turmeric, and good luck with that.

Let’s say the risk of having a heart attack in your fifties is 50 percent higher if you have high cholesterol. That sounds pretty bad. Let’s say the extra risk of having a heart attack if you have high cholesterol is only 2 percent. That sounds OK to me. But they’re the same (hypothetical) figures. Let’s try this. Out of a hundred men in their fifties with normal cholesterol, four will be expected to have a heart attack, whereas out of a hundred men with high cholesterol, six will be expected to have a heart attack. That’s two extra heart attacks per hundred. Those are called natural frequencies.

More concentrated drugs products are, after all, a natural consequence of illegality. You can’t buy coca leaves in South London, but you can buy crack.

Imagine I am standing near a large wooden barn with an enormous machine gun. I place a blindfold over my eyes, and laughing maniacally, I fire off many thousands and thousands of bullets into the side of the barn. I then drop the gun, walk over to the wall, examine it closely for some time, all over, pacing up and down. I find one spot where there are three bullet holes close to one another, then draw a target around them, announcing proudly that I am an excellent marksman.

This breaks a cardinal rule of any research involving statistics: you cannot find your hypothesis in your results.

“The true cost of something,” as The Economist says, “is what you give up to get it.